Wearing a hoodie on the floor of the House of Representatives was the least that Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) could do to make a point about Trayvon Martin’s shooting death, the lawmaker said Wednesday afternoon.
Speaking to a scrum of reporters after a series of legislative votes, Rush explained that his background as a civil rights activist in the 1960s inspired his decision to speak out.
A transcript of his exchange with reporters — edited for clarity and length — appears below:
Question: How did it feel doing what you did?
Rush: “It felt like, I had recollections, rather, of my younger life. It kind of just came up from inside, the whole thing. But I also felt good doing it, because if that’s the least I can do in trying to fight for justice for Trayvon Martin and others who are just wantonly killed on the streets of America and there’s no public response from law enforcement, from the criminal justice system. It’s abhorrent to me, always have been, always will be.”
When did you decide to do this?
“Really, just last night I decided I wanted to do something, I wanted to make a statement that a hoodie is nothing but a piece of clothing and it should not be the cause of the death of anybody in America. It’s just a piece of clothing. It’s wrong when a young man, Trayvon Martin, or any other young man is killed just for wearing a piece of clothing and being in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time. And being of the wrong color.”
So emotionally it was almost like a 1960s flashback – civil disobedience?
“Well, and I think that the House, and those of us who know the importance of civil disobedience, and sometimes civil disobedience is important. We salute Dr. King, the memory of Dr. King, Nelson Mandela and others. Sometimes we have to kind of summon the courage to stand up in the face of injustice. And I quoted one of my favorite passages from the Bible, Micah 6: 6-8: When the Lord asked the prophet Michael, ‘What do I require thee oh man but to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with your God.’ And I put emphasis on the ‘do justice.’ That means stand up for justice and against injustice. And that’s what I was doing.”
Did they physically remove you from the House floor?
“Yes, they escorted me off.”
Where did they take you?
“Out here with you guys.”
And then what did you do? Did they say anything to you? Did they say this wasn’t allowed?
“They told me that, yeah. The rules say you can’t wear a hat. A hoodie’s not a hat. So I kind of stretched the rules.”
“I honor the traditions of the House, but sometimes decorum has to take a back seat, especially when it comes to justice and the right of any American.
“We had to turn decorum aside in the founding of this nation. This nation should always lead in favor of those who want to bring grievances to their government and air those grievances before their government. And I don’t think that we’re so comfortable as Americans that we can allow civil disobedience or protest to become a thing of the past. And I’m so glad that I had the experience that I had in the ’60s that would inform me, inspire me and inflame me to speak out against injustice.”
Have you heard from Trayvon’s family?
“Yes, I was with them yesterday. And I told them that they’ve lost a son, but they’ve gained a whole generation of children.”
Where’d you get the hoodie?
“I got it last night. But I wear hoodies anyway. I do wear hoodies sometimes when I’m in Chicago. As a matter of fact, I gave a hoodie to my 42-year old son as a part of his Christmas present. It’s just a piece of clothing. It’s just a piece of clothing.”
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